Disco Zombies "South London Stinks" 2xLP
It was 1977, there may well have been “knives in West 11”, but at a student’s hall of residence in Leicester, a packed room of cross legged intellectuals were about to witness the debut of The Disco Zombies; Andy Ross on vocals and guitar, Geoff Dodimead on bass, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Hawkins on guitar and Andy Fullerton on drums. They were loud, fast and they had some witty one-liners.
The four-piece became five with the addition of Dave Henderson from The Blazers, a chirpy power pop punk quintet, who were part of a burgeoning scene in the city that included The Foamettes, Dead Fly Syndrome, Wendy Tunes, The RTRs, Robin Banks And The Payrolls and many more. Wine bars, canteens and bowling alleys in pubs were the home of this phenomenon until Subway Sect and The Lou’s arrived for The Great Unknown Tour. They needed a local band for support and the Disco Zombies obliged.
Record Shop owner - and now Mayor Of Mablethorpe - Carl Tebbutt was keen to ride the punk rollercoaster and decided to launch Uptwon Records with a Disco Zombies EP. Recorded in Chester in one four hour session, it included The Blazers’ ‘Top Of The Pops’ and Andy’s ‘Time Will Tell’, ‘Punk A Go Go’ and ‘Disco Zombies’.
Carl had done a deal with a one-stop music production company who went bust almost immediately and the record was shelved. Unperturbed the band pressed on and recorded a session at the local radio station, ‘TV Screen Existence’ being the only track that survived. A tour of Leicester – five pubs in five days – was the end of that era and the band without Johnny ‘Guitar’ who had another year to do at Uni, relocated to London taking with them The Foamettes’ guitarist Steve Gerrard who wisely returned to Leicester and become part of The Bomb Party. Steve was replaced by Mark Sutherland in what was to become the recognised line up of The Disco Zombies for several years, playing lots of London gigs from The Hope And Anchor to The Moonlight Club, North London Poly to the Scala.
By 1978, there was an eruption of small DIY indie labels and Andy Ross launched South Circular Records to release the band’s debut single, ‘Drums Over London’ - an ironic stab at people’s hostility to the arrival of other cultures, a piss-take of Spear And Jackson-wielding Tory attitudes. John Peel played it regularly until Rock Against Racism complained even though Peel explained that it was actually supporting their views. Ho hum.
South Circular wasn’t to last but Dave Henderson launched Dining Out. Dave and Andy journeyed to Ipswich to record the debut EP from the Peel-approved Adicts, the plan being to follow it with a Disco Zombies’ single and regain momentum. ‘Here Comes The Buts’ was the second Dining Out release, featuring the breakthrough Dr Boss drum machine; it was greeted with great enthusiasm in some quarters, although strangely it was likened to The Cramps meets Neil Young in NME.
Dining Out was always just one step ahead of going out of business and even though the follow up had been recorded - ‘The Year Of The Sex Olympics’, backed with ‘Target Practice’ and ‘New Scars’ – it never saw the light of day as the money finally ran out.
Somehow, Dining Out had a second lease of life and Andy wanted to record a new track for a new release amid 45s from The Sinatras, New Age and Spit Like Paint. By now, the Zombies had been through their dark post punk phase and ‘Where Have You Been Lately Tony Hateley’ was a clever upbeat anthem which told the tale of the nomadic footballer. The test pressing gained many Peel minutes but by the time it was ready to release, the band had finally split up. It eventually saw the light of day on the Cordelia label’s ‘Obscure Independent Classics’ album. Very fitting.
So, it was 1980: Mark Sutherland opened a studio in Bow, Dod got a day job, Andy Fullerton already had one. Andy and Dave went a bit experimental in Club Tango; Andy eventually discovering Blur for Food which he started with The Teardrop Explodes’ David Balfe, while Dave flirted with Worldbackwards.
In 2011, the drum machine line up descended on Mark’s studio, rehearsing for a show at the Bull And Gate. They recorded two of their lengthier tracks – ‘Night Of The Big Heat’ and ‘LHO’ powered by a waning Dr Rhythm – these were pressed as an extremely limited edition ten-inch. A few years later Andy Fullerton returned to the fold recording three more originals ‘Hit’, ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ and ‘Paint It Red’ for an even more limited edition ten-inch in 2018 and a show in October that year at The Dublin Castle.
Since then, meandering lunchtime discussions in restaurants that were popular in the ‘70s (Joe Allen, Café De Pacifico, etc) have led to arguments about the lost tracks – ‘Man From UNCLE’, ‘I Need You Like I Need VD’, ‘Throwaway Line’, ‘I Thought You Were Only Joking’, ‘London Nights’, ‘Cosmetics For China’, ‘When Doo Wop Hit Hampstead’. It’s only a matter of time. Until then.....